• Hannah McCreery

Is your marketing all pretty and no substance?

Updated: Nov 27, 2018

It’s true - people do judge a book by its cover.

The same goes for marketing. A perfectly curated Instagram feed and beautifully designed website with eye-catching imagery and on-point branding will attract attention.

A cohesive visual identity is important in marketing, but it's pointless without substance.

But a good cover isn’t worth much unless the chapters are meaningful.

Yes, visual branding is important. You should know your target market and have a visual identity that resonates with them. Your colours, logos, fonts and imagery should be consistent and align.

Let’s be real, an unattractive website that’s all over the show is an immediate turn-off. I wouldn't personally spend more than a few seconds on a website unless it’s at the very least, presentable. That’s just professionalism 101.

But visuals are a hook and you need to do more than hook customers to seal the deal.

Customers are smart - the majority won’t buy your product or service thanks to a pretty image alone.

You need to convince them to buy from you.

How? By providing real value, by demonstrating that you have the answer to their problem, that you can make their lives easier, that you’re credible, reliable, trustworthy and that you know your stuff.

Let’s take Instagram for example.

What’s more likely to provide value? A pretty picture of a coffee cup with the caption: “Mondays are always better with coffee”. Or a practical tip your reader can immediately use to help solve a problem? Or maybe a quick story about a relatable experience that inspires them? Which two of these examples have more substance?

I’m not saying light-hearted content should be avoided (although I do sometimes cringe at the extreme overuse of generic coffee-related posts from businesses at the moment). In fact it’s useful to include easy-to-digest content, if it’s entertaining enough.

Are we overusing coffee-related posts on our socials?

Quality is better than quantity.

What’s your audience really getting out of that post? If it’s not adding value (and value can include entertainment), maybe it shouldn’t be out there.

8 ways to demonstrate substance (through your copy)

1. Make your messages clear and simple

It can be tempting to add and add to your copy with mountains of fluff and gobbledygook but less can often be best. Strip it back. Know your key messages and stick to them. Make it easy for your audience.

Take your website for example. Readers should know within a couple of seconds of entering your site how you can help them.

And yes, creativity is also important, but shouldn't be used at the expense of clarity. You can still do both well.

2. Showcase your point of difference

This doesn’t have to be huge. It could be your exceptionally speedy service or your super simple process, for example. Having trouble figuring it out? For service-based businesses it might help to bring it back to your personality. What makes you unique as a person/people (are you ultra-reliable, ridiculously fun or seriously creative) and what aspects of these flow into your business?

3. Get your tone right

Your content should always be conversational (write how you speak, but tighter and without the waffle). Beyond that, choose language that your target market responds to.

What’s your brand personality? Is it fun, creative, serious, high-end? Show your brand personality through the words you choose and you’ll click with the groups that matter.

4. Show your audience you “get” them

Anticipate barriers, pain points and questions, then address them. This makes your audience feel like you get them, that you’re speaking directly to them and that you can help them.

5. You know your stuff so show it

Giving out free advice is a great way to do this. In fact, don’t hold back - give your best advice away for free. This helps to build authority and credibility while warming potential customers to you. You might do this through a series of blogs, tips on social media or perhaps a free eBook or cheat sheet.

But be careful to deliver what you promise. If you’re writing a blog titled, ‘The complete guide to writing a killer website that converts’, it better be a complete guide and it better contain loads of practical and easy-to-implement advice so they really can build a killer website that converts. If the content falls short of what it promises, it’ll have the opposite affect – you’ll look like you don’t have enough knowledge to pass on which will only annoy readers.

6. Demonstrate credibility through social proof

How does your audience know you’re the real deal? Testimonials (with names, titles, organisations and, if possible, photos) can be a great way to do this. Examples of your work and case studies are other ways.

7. Don’t let silly mistakes tarnish your reputation

One typo can put some doubt in your reader’s mind about your credibility, two can put a lot, and three can turn them away for good. Don’t let a silly mistake affect your bottom line.

8. Give your audience insight into you

Share your purpose and let people get to know the people behind your business. By doing this, you become memorable. People like to feel good about who they do business with and if you can open up, share your 'why' and stories from behind the scenes, you’ll connect with them.

If you can get all of this right AND maintain a pretty cover, you’re in a great position to do well.

Remember: Pretty might attract the eye but substance will close the deal.

About the author

Hamilton copywriter, Hannah McCreery

Hannah McCreery is an experienced copy and content writer, editor and proofreader.

She works with businesses, agencies and non-profits in Hamilton and further afield, helping them find the right words to showcase their best side.

Get in touch.

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